All day at work I feel the tension in my back, shoulders, and neck. As I draft circuitous contracts and make meaningless phone calls, the tension only worsens. I feel as if I can't quite catch my breath.
At home, I feed the boys. I wipe away spills. I clean thrown food. I broker toy treaties and set lines of demarcation for play.
I clean up poop. From Hollis. From his brother. From the floor. From the furniture. A potty training battle ground. My dignity the casualty of war.
I bathe them. I force their little squirmy bodies into pajamas, a diaper, and a pull-up.
The boys and their frenetic energy don't slow as I clean their dishes, pick up their toys, fold their clothing.
And finally, wearily, I slide down to the floor in the playroom. I sit with knees up to my chest, arms around my ankles and chin upon my knees. A precarious, protective balance as I watch my boys play, chasing each other in circles around the room.
Holden veers out of the endless loop towards me, running pell-mell. I brace myself for impact, to be pulled into the game, tightening my arms and legs against his assault. But Holden slows, grabs on to me. I feel his little arms circle my back and legs.
He lays his head on my shoulder. My breath catches, stops.
I pull my arms up to hold him, to capture this moment, but he's elusive, a slippery sort of toddler. He wriggles backward from my grasp and pauses before turning. He flashes me a quicksilver smile and runs back to chase his brother.
And then I exhale.